Often times, when I’m playing a game, I need background noise. Not always. I’d never dream of needing some other kind of sound when playing one of the Final Fantasy games (especially VI and up), and while I desperately wish for some other noise during Fatal Frame 2 to cut some of the horrendously creepy ambiance, it would, well, cut some of the horrendously creepy ambiance. But other games either have less than impressive soundtracks, no sound tracks to speak of, or some other reason why I think alternative noise is helpful.
This is all just buildup to explaining why I listen to an inordinate amount of geek video shows: Angry Video Game Nerd, pretty much everything on That Guy With The Glasses, you get the picture. I love these things because they do the same kind of over the top hyperbole that I often do on my own show, and it’s funny to listen to when I’m swinging the U.S.S Fuckthaborg around for another torpedo barrage. However, I’m beginning to notice a problem.
They’re all over-the-top angry. This isn’t a bad thing in and of itself. Goddess knows I have no moral high ground to tell people not to use over-the-top hyperbole as humor, nor do I have the high ground to tell them not to enjoy it. But in many cases, it feels like these videos go out of their way to lampoon their cherished media entertainment without making time to enjoy and appreciate the good.
Naturally this isn’t every case. I know several of the shows will make sure to put out a ‘top ten favorite’ type video, or will toss a few lines about what the thing they’re reviewing did right. Not to mention, they’re entertainment. It’s not really their job to present anything but what it says on the tin. No, the fault does not lie with them, but with us.
Ever since the days of SNES vs Sega Genesis, we geeks have had this bad habit of arguing based on sound bites and gut desire. Don’t tell me you don’t remember ‘blast processing’, because we all remember blast processing. What did it mean? Nothing. It was a marketing term. Same with Sega CD (because there’s no Nintendo CD!). It has yet to end. These days it’s almost a joke, the angry fanboy who dismisses anything from an ‘opposing’ product out of hand, coins words like ‘unbeWiiver’ and delivers his diatribes in paragraphs that would make a 4th grade English teacher scream in terror and fall to their knees, pleading with God to save their pitiful souls.
As a joke, it’s entertaining. It is also a problem. We seek out this kind of tribalism, argue with each other who’s games are better, who’s entertainment is better. In doing so, we continue this cycle of anger. Sure, I get it. You are not angry like that. You always work very hard to explain, with nuance and understanding of context, why your games are better than everyone else’s. Or maybe you really don’t engage in any of that crap, and simply play your games or your LARPs or read your SF/Fantasy.
But that’s the image we’re transmitting to the world. Sure, we’ve somewhat gotten the media to bring us up out of the basement and accept that some of us wear contacts, but we’re still pathetic manchildren who can’t maintain relationships and would rather do a raid than spend time with our girlfriends. I know we’re not like that. You know we’re not like that. But that’s how we’re seen.
We’re seen that way, in large part, because we let it happen. Every time we got into a ‘blast processing’ argument, every time we let someone get away with lobbing racial slurs on Xbox Live saying “Well, they never do anything, anyway,” we’ve allowed this rot to fester. Hell, look at how often industry workers get regaled with death and rape threats for the simple act of suggesting we try something new and innovative in gaming (even without touching any comments about sexism, we can all agree that any kind of threat for the mere suggestion of changing a gameplay style is Too Much(tm). )
And I can already hear you typing your comments. “But Alcoholic Luigi!”(as you always think of me when you think of me). “It’s just the Internet! It doesn’t really mean anything, and besides, those people are just passionate about what they love!”
To which I can only reply, “Thanks for proving my point.” Because I’m not saying that these are bad people. I’m saying these are people doing things badly. As geeks, as human beings, we can and should be better than that. It’ll take work. We’ll have to spend time reporting and struggling, and it may seem easier to just let the jackasses win. But we can, and we will win, for within us resides the teachings and the spirits of heroes old and new. Of Super Mario, who rose above his humble roots to save a Princess and a kingdom. Of Link, who faced down a creature who’s lust for power perverted an entire realm. Of Samus Aryan, who feared no alien being. Of Terra and Locke and Edgar, of Cloud and Tifa and Aeris, who gave their all to preserve the spirit of their world. Of Chrono and Lucca and Merle, who learned to control time itself that they may save all.
We can, we are, better than we have allowed ourselves to be. I know it. So let’s work on this, huh?